Bus Rider

Her father pushed the suitcase into the luggage compartment while she went up the steps. Waving to his shadowed figure as the bus pulled out, she was grateful for the anonymity of darkness of the overnight trip.

Trying to get comfortable, she knew she wouldn’t sleep. More tired than she could ever remember, she was torn between wanting to drop off and the fear that if she dreamt the angel would return to tell her more. Or that it wouldn’t, and she would be more confused or have more reason to think something had snapped in her brain.

A sketchy guy sat down beside her. She pretended to be asleep until he reached over and started to play with her hair. “Get lost!” He grabbed her wrists started to pull her close “Stop it!  Leave me alone you jerk!” The driver stopped the bus and put him off.

Later, a mother and two kids got on and sat across the aisle, the kids squirming. “Put one of them beside me, it’s fine.” She helped the older one out of her ski jacket. “Where are you going?” the girl asked. “To see my cousin.  Are you going on a visit?” “No, we’re riding the bus so daddy can't hit mommy.”

There was a little light in the night sky as she wearily stepped off in Elizabethtown and got her bag from underneath, then stood shivering against a wall until a cab crept by.

Her cousin was an earth mother with a house full of cushions and books and the smell of coffee and patchouli.   

She gasped when saw Mary, who stepped back wondering if not telling her had been a bad idea. Elizabeth laughed, holding her belly “The kid just did a back flip. That hasn’t happened before. I’m so glad to see you.”

She dragged her in the door, dropped the suitcase on a chair and hugged her. “There he goes again!”

Minutes later they were sitting across from each other, holding mugs, Elizabeth not saying a word.

“I need a change of scenery.”

“Everything okay with your parents?”

“Yes.”

“And your fiancee?”

“I, need to give him some space.”

“What’s up?”

She opened her mouth, started to say, but words wouldn’t come out. She tried with her hands. That was no good either. She finally whispered, “I’m pregnant.”

“Lovely! Well, most days,” Elizabeth said as she patted her own belly, “but you’ll find out.”

Mary nodded then looked right at her cousin for the first time. “Mom and dad won’t tell me, so I want to know if our family has a history of mental illness.”

“Depends on who you ask, but mostly I would guess not.”

Half of Mary’s mug was gone before she spoke again. “Do you believe in angels?”

“Honey, there are a lot of things in life I don’t discount just because I don’t have the experience but Zach and I may have had a run in or two with one.”

“Really?  What was it like?”

“A little fuzzy.”

“Right, fuzzy, like you dreamed it but there’s something real about it and here I am putting on weight and feeling heavy too, like I’m carrying more, overshadowed. Like being a hen sheltering a chick and having a hawk overhead.”

She started to shiver again. Her cousin struggled out of her lazyboy and came and sat beside her on the loveseat.

“Oohh.”

“Another back flip?”

“No, I feel like I’m in the presence of someone special.”

“Thanks.”

“No, not just you, your kid.”

She started to sing an old hymn. Mary joined her, then added some new verses.

“Can’t be all that bad then.”

“No, no, a little weird, but hopeful too. I’m not crazy about bringing a kid into this world, especially a special child. But it makes me hope too. For the creep on the bus and the mother and her kids: that he’ll meet the right person who’ll set him straight, give him back some self-esteem; that someone will give that mother courage to look after herself and her kids, make a new life forherself. That people won’t have to take bus rides in the black of night because they won’t be afraid of themselves or each other.”

“It will take a remarkable person to do all that,” said Elizabeth.

“Maybe this kid will grow up to be someone who reminds us God thinks we’re all remarkable.”

“We’ll see, won’t we?”